Film workers defend state tax credit Baker would cut

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BOSTON – Film industry workers flooded a State House hearing Tuesday to defend a tax credit they say has fueled job growth by making the state a regular destination for large and small productions and enabled industry workers to stay in Massachusetts rather than pursuing opportunities in New York or Los Angeles.

Tax credit critics over the years have argued that too much of the benefits flow to out-of-state interests and claim investments could be made in areas crying out for more revenue if the incentive was eliminated or scaled back.

The House last session rejected Gov. Charlie Baker’s initial bid to rein in the credit. The Republican governor came back this year with a reworked proposal that he says would “restore the film tax credit to the structure when the credit was introduced in 2005.” Baker wants to use the savings to raise the annual cap on the state’s low-income housing tax credit by $5 million, which would benefit working families with limited means.

In an interview prior to the Revenue Committee’s public hearing on Baker’s bill, Dot Aufiero, who produced “The Fighter” and “The Finest Hours” and is working on “Patriots Day,” told the News Service the film tax credit was one of the reasons she was able to move back to Watertown, where she grew up. Others in the industry are also grateful that the incentive has helped the industry form a local infrastructure and made consistent work possible, she said.

“A lot of them would prefer to live on the East Coast. That’s my preference,” Aufiero said.

Predicting work will dry up if the tax credit is scaled back, Aufiero recalled how industry work in Massachusetts was “sporadic” prior to the film tax credit’s introduction. “It was difficult to work in Massachusetts. There wasn’t enough work,” she said.

In 2014, about 850 Massachusetts residents worked on sets for “The Finest Hours” in Quincy, Duxbury, Norwell and Chatham, said Aufiero, adding that she has a book signed by the film’s cast that she hopes to present to Gov. Baker some day.

Margie Sullivan, president of the Massachusetts Production Coalition and executive producer of Redtree Productions in Boston, said projects that were shot out of state before the tax credit are now shot in state.

Often, she said, freelancers are finding steady work. “It’s hard to see the wealth of bodies that are working in this community,” said Sullivan, noting her six-person boutique shop had 200 people involved for a TV campaign it produced for Ocean Spray.

Don Packer, a 1977 Boston University graduate, said the film tax credit has made a “huge difference” for his post-production editing company and credited the tax policy with helping his business bridge the Great Recession in 2008.

Packer said he’s been able to focus on commercials in part because his competitors are busy working on feature films.

Written by Michael Norton